New true-crime show focuses on cutting-edge forensics

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  • Simon Morton hosts the new true-crime show, Forensics on CBS Justice (DStv 170).
  • The documentary series explores the world of forensic science in solving real crimes from New Zealand.
  • "We show people how you get the scientific information that can be used in the judicial process," says Simon.

There's so much at a crime scene that can be analysed, from DNA, fingerprints and blood splatter to various microscopic evidence. Just the tiniest hair could convict a killer, and that's what intrigues host Simon Morton the most. He told us how his love of science made his work on the show deeply satisfying.

How did you come to be involved in Forensics?

I hosted a technology science consumer show on radio in New Zealand, and I guess they saw me as someone who could translate complex science into an understandable narrative. I had done a bit of TV before, but Forensics was quite a change because it was very serious. Most of the shows I've done before have been fun, travelogue type stuff.

Did you have any real interest in criminal cases before?

No, not really. I even struggled to remember some of the cases in the show, even though they were fairly high-profile cases here. I don't tend to engage much with crime and murder and just ignore it mostly.

Tell us a bit about the show.

The narrative is easy. You've got a crime, someone's dead, and that's where the intrigue starts. Then it goes back to the beginning and starts to build the protagonists and develop the characters. But the format of Forensics then gets clever. I probably wouldn't have got involved if it was about lots of blood and gore, but instead, it is very science-focused. I go into a lab with a team of scientists, and we test stuff and break stuff and actually show people how you get the scientific information that can be used in the judicial process.

A scene in Forensics
'I go into a lab with a team of scientists and we test stuff and break stuff.'

Did you find dealing with these cases affected you psychologically at all?

It didn't really affect me personally, but at times I found myself just trying to work out why someone would do this to another human being. Was it anger? Was it hatred? I tried not to commit too much emotional energy to it, though.

Was there any particular case that stood out for you?

I can't say there was just one case because they were all quite horrific. One that I do remember, however, was the man who chopped up his girlfriend and buried her under concrete in a building site in Auckland. He used to drive past the site with his son in the car on the way to school every day. I remember just thinking: "How could anybody do that?"

In terms of forensics, what interested you the most?

What did intrigue me throughout was going back to the science and the genetics. The fact that they could take very small samples of semen or saliva or blood and sequence that and then build really strong judicial cases against an individual. Also, the forensic software that is used. Some of it is being developed here in New Zealand and is now licensed around the world.

A scene in Forensics.
'Small samples of semen or saliva or blood build really strong judicial cases against an individual.'

Do you think criminals are getting cleverer?

The series' producers didn't want to give too much away in terms of forensics that might help criminals out in the future. The process of it going to the various agencies for final sign off was pretty intense and frustrating at times because they wanted to slice out elements that were key from a content perspective. There was a lot of wrangling between the producers and the police.

What, in your opinion, is the area of forensics that is developing the quickest?

It's definitely in the DNA and genetics space. The sequencing of DNA is becoming increasingly advanced, as we've seen with how they have been picking up the different strains of Covid-19. Something that used to take scientists weeks can now be done in a matter of hours.

What did you love the most about doing the show?

The bit I really loved was getting into the labs and seeing the teams of incredible people that we have in New Zealand. I realised how hard they work and how committed they are to getting a conviction. I never knew how much goes into the whole discipline of forensic science. There are so many specialised areas.

What's next for you?

I'm actually setting up a sourdough bakery and bake sourdough bread now for a living. I still do a bit of media work, training scientists on how to talk to the media.

Watch Forensics on CBS Justice (DStv 170) on Sundays at 20:00.

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